About Percy Bysshe Shelley – Academy of American Poets

Shelley poet

read the poems of this poet

percy bysshe shelley was born on august 4, 1792 in field place, near horsham, sussex, england. The eldest son of Timothy and Elizabeth Shelley, with a brother and four sisters, lined up to inherit not only his grandfather’s considerable estate but also a seat in Parliament. he attended eton college for six years beginning in 1804 and then went on to oxford college. he began writing poetry while at eton, but his first publication was a gothic novel, zastrozzi (g. wilkie and j. robinson, 1810), in which he expressed his own heretical views and atheists through the villain zastrozzi. That same year, Shelley and another student, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, published a pamphlet of burlesque verse, “Margaret Nicholson’s Posthumous Fragments,” and with his sister Elizabeth, Shelley published original poetry; of victor and cazire. In 1811 Shelley continued this prolific outpouring with more publications, including another pamphlet he wrote and distributed with Hogg entitled “The Necessity of Atheism”, which got him expelled from Oxford after less than a year. Shelley could have been reinstated if his father had intervened, but this would have required him to reject the pamphlet and come out as a Christian. Shelley refused, leading to a complete rift between him and his father. this left him in dire financial straits for the next two years.

at nineteen, shelley eloped to scotland with sixteen-year-old harriet westbrook. Once married, Shelley moved to England’s Lake District to study and write. Two years later she published her first long and serious work, Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem. The poem grew out of Shelley’s friendship with British philosopher William Godwin, and expressed Godwin’s freethinking socialist philosophy. Shelley also fell in love with Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, and, in 1814, they eloped to Europe. After six weeks, with no money, they returned to England. In November 1814, Harriet Shelley gave birth to a son. and in february 1815 mary godwin gave birth prematurely to a boy who died two weeks later. The following January, Mary gave birth to another son, named William, after her father. In May, the couple went to Lake Geneva, where Shelley spent much time with George Gordon, Lord Byron, sailing on Lake Geneva and discussing poetry and other topics, including ghosts and spirits, late into the night. During one of these ghostly “seances,” Byron proposed that each person present write a ghost story. Mary’s contribution to the contest became the novel frankenstein. That same year, Shelley produced the allegory in verse Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude. In December 1816, Harriet Shelley apparently committed suicide. Three weeks after her body was recovered from a lake in a London park, Shelley and Mary Godwin were officially married. Shelley lost custody of her two children to Harriet due to her adherence to the notion of free love.

in 1817, shelley produced laon and cythna, a long narrative poem which, because it contained references to incest as well as attacks on religion, was withdrawn after only a few copies were published . it was later edited and republished as the revolt of islam (c. and j. ollier, 1818). At this time, he also wrote revolutionary political treatises signed “The Hermit of Marlow”. then, early in 1818, he and his new wife left England for the last time. During the remaining four years of his life, Shelley produced all of his major works, including the lyric drama Prometheus Unbound (c. and J. Ollier, 1820). Traveling and living in various Italian cities, the Shelleys were friends with British poet Leigh Hunt and his family, as well as Byron.

On July 8, 1822, shortly before his thirtieth birthday, Shelley drowned in a storm while attempting to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia, Italy on his schooner, the Don Juan.

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